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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
School caretaker is head's ally
Rona Tutt
Rona Tutt says the majority of parents are supportive

Headteacher Rona Tutt is very grateful to have a young, physically-strong, male caretaker at her school.

When Dr Tutt feels a situation with a parent may get out-off-hand, she knows he is on-hand, fully prepared to back her up if needs be.


It's hard to take, particularly when you can't hit back

Rona Tutt, headteacher
"Being a primary school, you are very female dominated, so he has been the nearest available person I can trust when I'm worried a situation might get out of hand," says Dr Tutt.

But the majority of parents at Woolgrove School in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, are wonderfully supportive of Dr Tutt and her staff.

As is often the case, it is a tiny minority who can make life tough.

Dr Tutt prefers not to talk about her own personal experiences - with just 108 pupils at her special primary school, which caters for children with learning difficulties, individuals may be too clearly identified.

Difficult situation

But she knows of many colleagues who have felt thoroughly demoralised by some parents' behaviour.

"You feel as though it's an assault - it's a personal attack which is difficult to keep in perspective.

"And however unreasonable they are, you have to try not to exacerbate the situation. It's hard to take, particularly when you can't hit back," says Dr Tutt.

Dr Tutt says it is wrong to think the problem parents are only those from lower socio-economic groups - all too often it is the more educated parents who know "which buttons to press".

"Physical abuse may tend to be from those who resort to violence because they don't have anything else in their armoury.

"But when we come to bullying and verbal abuse, this is often from the parents who are more aware of their rights and the legal backup they can draw on," says Dr Tutt.

Governors role

She has even heard of cases where middle class parents have deliberately joined the panel of school governors so they can grind their axe.

"It's the ones who realise the potential who often get themselves into the heart of what's going on."

Dr Tutt says she would not want to go back to the days when parents had to adopt a deferential approach to schools, but she wants to see some boundaries re-established.

"We need to work with parents in partnership, it is crucially important that we work together.

"But we shouldn't have to put up with parents wanting to maintain a place for their child but who still go on being highly critical of the school."

See also:

07 Jun 02 | UK Education
24 Mar 02 | UK Education
22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


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